What was your favorite school supply to shop for at the start of the school year?
Caroline: I loved getting a new two pack of Sharpies--they made me feel like a real grown up. Writing my name on everything in Sharpie before the first day was especially pleasing.
Alyx: This is blasphemous but true: pens. I never finished pens as a child (and rarely do as an adult), so back to school was always the best occasion for getting new pens. I also had a fantasy of discovering THE pen for me, which I would then get in every color and use religiously until I died. Maybe I would even have a cupboard in my house containing neatly stacked boxes of this pen, organized by color. Of course, I never found THE pen for me, and each August I'd get another seven-pack of whatever pen seemed cool and sophisticated to me at the time.
Meredith: Pencil boxes/cases, notebooks, crayons, and I had this thing where I REALLY wanted a trapper keeper for a couple years.
Caitlin: I really loved picking out special folders. We usually got the like $0.15 cent really plain primary color ones because let's be real - they were going to be used and abused and why pick something nice? My mom always let us pick ONE fancy folder or notebook, like one with a character or pattern or something. I had a big glossy one with a butterfly on it that my dad gave me that I kept nice for years.
Did your parents make or give you anything special for the school year?
Caitlin: My mom is really crafty and made things for me and my siblings all the time. There was one year she decorated lunch boxes for me and my brother with puffy paint. Mine was pink and green and she drew a flowery garden on it, my brother's was blue and she'd painted dinosaurs (I think) on it. I had mine until long after all the paint fell off.
Meredith: No joke, my mom gave me like a hundred customized pencils in various pastel colors with my name on them. I absolutely loved them (and they had great erasers, which was a awesome bonus).
Alyx: My dad is half-German, and in Germany children get a Schultüte at the beginning of their first grade year. It's basically a giant paper cone filled with school supplies, candies, and small toys. Back to school shopping is quite festive in Germany, with tall stacks of these cones sitting all over the place. On my first day of first grade, I received a Schultüte as well, which was probably my favorite back to school gift ever.
Caroline: The one special thing my mom did every school was at Christmas. We each got to choose some books that we loved to inscribe, wrap and donate to our school library. I went to a public school in a small town with not a lot of money for new library books so it was a fun way for us to feel involved and get on the good side of the librarian.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Caroline: It's a toss up between art and english. I was way better at art and I had a really great art teacher in middle school who ran an after school program for the gifted art kids, which was probably my favorite part of elementary school.
Alyx: All the subjects were my favorite! I was a real nerd growing up (I am still am, who am I kidding). If I had to pick, math and English were my favorites. I had consistent color codes for all my subjects every year too. Math was red, English was grey, Science was green, History was blue, and German was black.
Caitlin: I was always a huge fan of creative writing and art. My mom inspired me and my siblings to be really crafty from the time we could hold art implements, so I developed a strong love for creative projects. I liked taking the prompts and going as far outside the box as I could. I still have my colored pencil box (with an art project glued to the top!) full of my grade school colored pencils.
Meredith: History and art always and forever!
What was your favorite first day of school outfit (bonus if you have pictures!!)
Meredith: Well, for four years I was decked out in a Catholic school uniform which involved a gray plaid jumper that I definitely did not enjoy. So, when I switched to public school in the 5th grade, getting to pick out a first-day-of-school outfit was a big deal to me. I'm pretty sure I ended up going with a pair of jorteralls covered in a purple floral pattern that were a favorite of mine at the time and with a purple striped shirt (an outfit I would 100% wear today).
Caroline: First day of school outfits were VERY important in our house. It was the only time of year that we were allowed to pick anything (within reason) and it didn't have to be on sale. My favorite one was 5th grade. I got a two piece outfit from Talbots Kids. It was made of periwinkle raw silk and was a sleeveless sheath with matching capris. The edges had blue, green and purple beading with little flower paillettes. I picked it because it matched the blue flower earrings in my very recently pierced ears.
Alyx: I remember getting really excited for my FDOSO every year, but I honestly can't remember any of the individually.
Caitlin: I mainly wore jean shorts (or skorts!) with big t-shirts tucked in. In fact as I sit here at 30 years old, that's still my go-to outfit when it's warm. There was a time in the 7th or 8th grade where I started the year with a pair of knock-off Dr. Marten's leather fisherman sandals that I BEGGED for to round out the shorts-and-big-shirt look. We must have had them on K-Mart layaway for months before I finally got them. My mother can attest that I wore them until they literally fell apart and they were disgusting. Yes, I wore them with socks a couple times.
Did you pack lunch or eat at the cafeteria?
Caroline: I always packed my lunch. I loved tuna sandwiches and my favorite ever lunchbox was a bright purple one with stars imprinted on it that I mail ordered from the American Girl catalog.
Alyx: We did not have a cafeteria at my school, so I packed lunch. In high school, I ran our on-campus catering program, where we had four local restaurants come sell lunch on campus every Friday. To be honest, the role didn't require much and was mostly college application padding, but it was still fun!
Meredith: I almost always packed lunch, but every so often I'd get lunch in the cafeteria (usually on crazy bread days in middle school, because who doesn't want a slab of bread smothered in cheese and garlic sauce?).
Caitlin: I packed lunch for the majority of my grade and high school years, except for the short period of time that I went to public school (kindergarten through third grade). I still daydream about mashed potatoes with turkey gravy day - the gravy was especially good and salty. They would only do it around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it was kind of special, I guess? I was always hopeful there'd be extra turkey gravy days.
Did you have a favorite teacher?
Caroline: Mrs. Frazier, my 7th and 8th grade english teacher was really great. She was the first teacher I ever had that really treated us that intelligent humans and not children. Her honors english class was the first challenging class I ever took. She was also the advisor for Model UN, my favorite extracurricular. I still keep a set of the vocab cards we used in her class on my coffee table.
Alyx: Mr. Robert Wilson was the 5th grade math teacher at my school. He was also my 5th grade advisor. I have never met anyone who knows Mr. Wilson who was not absolutely overflowing with praise and gratitude. He is a fantastic educator, not only of math, but of what it means to be an honorable human and how to have fun being one. Send your small people to Durham Academy, if for no other reason than Mr. Wilson.
Meredith: I loved, loved, loved my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Brancheau. I had just moved to an entirely new school that year, and she made the transition so incredibly easy and less scary.
Caitlin: My favorite teacher was probably my third grade teacher Mrs. Meyers. She had this excellent reward system for students who did really well on tests or were well-behaved and didn't flip any cards for a whole week and such. If you were really good, she would let students sit at her desk for a whole day, or take goodies out of the rewards bin. Or the most special reward: if you were really, REALLY good, she would get permission to take students to Taco Bell for lunch.